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Joseph Fawcett: Uncurs’d the ornamented murderers move

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Fawcett: Selections against war

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Joseph Fawcett
From The Art of War

Yet this fame deed, which e’en though singly done,
If naked seen, such shuddering horror moves,
When e’en on gasping myriads at a time
It is committed, yet when it is done
With all its tinsel on it, with its pomp
And robe about it, by a numerous troop
Whom ermin’d Mightiness commands and keeps;
Whose corporal forms the critic eye approves,
Select in stature, of proportions fair;
Whose trim attire, with nice adjustment neat,
Is pure from soil, and bright with showy dies;
Who to black scenes of lurid horror go,
In holiday and laughing colours clad,
Gay rainbow ruffians; on their guilty way;
That wear no hanging head, nor downcast eye,
But with a swelling chest and stately port
That strut to blood; amid the gaping throng,
Through whose long lines of dazzled looks they march,
With plumy pinnacles pre-eminent,
Tall above men; whose weapons luminous
Hold mirrors to the sun, return his rays,
And give the light their radiant face receives,
Doubling the day; all regularly rank’d
In system fair and symmetry of posts,
Amusive to the eye; with measur’d steps:
Harmonious moving, timing every tread
In symphony of feet; or elevate,
Mounted on manag’d and on mettled steeds,
Whose haughty arch of neck bears high their heads,
And hot, dilated nostrils shoot out smoke,
Panting with gen’rous fires, that snort and neigh,
And restless paw and champ the foamy bit,
And high curvet, impatient of the pace
Of grave procession’s solemn step of state;
While beauteous banners o’er the passing pomp
Unrol their silken sheets, that in rich streaks
Strive with the morning, and, in easy stream
And playful freedom, flutt’ring loose in air,
Flirt with the gamesome gale; and sprightly sounds
Of rousing music join the gorgeous show,
The thundering threat of drums, and the keen tones
Of the sharp fife, and high inciting sounds
Of trumpets that persuade the thrilling ear,
“’Tis honour calls to arms, and the big call
‘Tis heroes that obey:” – thus proudly cloath’d
In luxury of dress, with such a sweep
And swell of regal gown, all over cloak’d
In every part with amplitude of pall,
Voluminous disguise! this ugly act,
Foul hag of night, mishapen, monstrous thing,
Abhorr’d and loathsome to the sense of right,
As to the sight the ribs of bony Death,
Or hideous Scylla’s womb of howling hounds,
Fails to disgust; the amiable vice,
Hid in magnificence and drown’d in state,
Loses the fiend; receives the sounding name
Of Glorious War; and through th’ admiring throng
Uncurs’d the ornamented murderers move.

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